The start of the Saul “Canelo” Alvarez-John Ryder fight week build-up demonstrated the extent – not that it was entirely unexpected – to which Ryder is viewed as little more than a dance partner to the all-conquering Alvarez among those in Guadalajara.
The press conference staged at the suitably corporate-looking, high-rise Riu Hotel was preceded by both main event fighters conducting “sit-downs” with the written media. Ryder, joined by the, frankly, near-endlessly quotable Eddie Hearn and his trainer Tony Sims was joined by little more than a handful of those relevant – half of which were among the British contingent. The remainder were Mexican, which meant that none of those among the US media already in town to cover Saturday’s fight bothered giving Ryder their time.
Perhaps inevitably, Alvarez’s was attended by a considerably greater number – owing to the presence of further Mexicans and Americans. The extent to which interest in Alvarez – and indeed the Mexican element of his first fight outside of the US since November 2011 and first in Guadalajara since that June – is influencing the final days before Saturday’s fight was then demonstrated by the fact that the questions the world’s highest profile and most marketable fighter was asked, and therefore answered, in Spanish were not translated.
Typically, the desire to promote and sell pay-per-views means that every effort is made to attempt to make every possible audience as aware as they can be of the relevant fight. In Guadalajara in 2023, however, the only audience being prioritised is that that can speak Spanish – and perhaps that is fitting, given the occasion’s “homecoming” nature.
Comparisons have been made between Saturday’s fight and that 20 years earlier at Mexico’s Azteca Stadium between America’s provocative Greg Haugen and the great Julio Cesar Chavez. Where Haugen had insulted both Chavez and the Mexican people, however, Ryder and those around him are full of respect. Ryder hasn’t once audibly attempted to unsettle the undisputed super middleweight champion, and his trainer Tony Sims was similarly polite at the press conference, when he spoke in English and paused to be translated into Spanish, and started by thanking those present for the reception they had been given and by highlighting his respect for the Mexican fight community by saying, among other things, “We come from London; from humble beginnings”. That Hearn had started by saying, “Last night I was getting my haircut in Guadalajara, and I was told, ‘Welcome home’”, suggests that he wasn’t quite going for the same approach.
Hearn, so instrumental in making Saturday’s fight and in the careers of both fighters, regardless ought to have been sat at the top table. The same cannot be said for Mauricio Sulaiman, the attention-seeking president of the increasingly lamentable WBC, who not only insisted on speaking, but on promoting the WBC’s latest meaningless belt. Taking time to patronise Ryder – though thankfully resisting the urge to pat him on the head – he told the challenger: "You can trust that the judges will treat you with respect." Whether Ryder and Sims left full of confidence and wondering why they might ever have worried remains unclear.
Shortly after the introductions concluded, the attempts to translate those speaking Spanish into English for a press conference that was being broadcast on television ceased. When the fighters then faced off, Ryder’s advantage in size was unexpectedly pronounced.
Among those present throughout was none other than Conor Benn, who, amid Hearn’s willingness to speak of him potentially fighting on June 17 in the US, was both supporting his friend and stablemate and remaining relevant. Hearn expects to announce the details of that promotion imminently.